Business Intelligence provides the solution to so many problems, but it is not without its challenges. Here we explore some of the new challenges that businesses must face as they look to beef up their intelligence strategies. Read on to discover how to be data-driven, without being driven off a data cliff.
The Human Data Silo
Siloing our data is bad news. We learned that a while ago, and so we go out of our way to make our data sources and stores accessible to all who need to use them. This means inter-departmental access, remote collaboration, and the full benefit of our Big Data strategies delivered to anyone with the correct security clearance.
This is great, but unfortunately, problems can still occur. Your team needs insight before it can decide on the next move, so you commission a report. Unfortunately, this is not communicated to other employees in your department, who also commission a report with a view to gaining the same insight. At best, the process becomes slow and inefficient. At worst, you end up with two conflicting viewpoints and the whole thing grinds to a halt.
This is the human data silo. This is what happens when interpersonal communication breaks down and data insight gets caught up in one team or one individual.
The solution? Communication. Whether by fostering a generally communicative atmosphere in the workplace, or by hosting regular structured meetings aimed at getting people talking and collaborating, injecting communication into the situation boosts efficiency, efficacy and productivity.
Poorly Defined Roles
Data should equal freedom; it should represent a passport and a ticket into a realm of unprecedented understanding and possibility. However, such utopian ideals rarely work in practice, and, what many businesses are now beginning to find, is that a lack of structure and protocol is threatening to cancel out any progress which has been made.
This is because many business intelligence departments have become too fractured. Companies across America, and beyond, are suffering because they do not know who is responsible for what. The upshot of this anarchic free-for-all at the Big Data table is that the benefits of BI are nullified.
The right to access and wield data is an important one, and any company which restricts the flow of data to its departments and teams is not providing the right support to its employees. However, with rights come responsibilities, and these responsibilities must be clearly defined.
To pull business intelligence teams together – to reinforce the bonds which may have become stretched or deformed – roles and responsibilities must be assigned. For example, designate a team which is responsible for managing data sources in a certain area, designate another team whose responsibility is to support interdepartmental collaboration, and designate a third team to oversee the archiving and management of historical reports. With this sort of structure in place, businesses can go on benefiting from BI, without restricting access.
It is true that business intelligence does not always come cheap. Many company bosses, desperate not to be outflanked by the competition in the market, invest stacks of dollars into business intelligence and hope for the best. But it doesn’t need to be like this.
This is a product of poor understanding, and of the ancient rule of business which tells us “you get what you pay for”. With business intelligence, you don’t necessarily get what you pay for – particularly if you are flying blind into a purchase. You might also be paying for something that you have in place already.
As business intelligence tools become increasingly diverse in terms of both function and scope, the market can be a little bewildering. What’s required is a full and frank audit of the tools in your current BI arsenal, identifying the areas where tools are doubling up (and helping you to decide which one to jettison) as well as the areas currently left exposed.
For example, if you are paying for DaaS subscriptions when you already have analytic and data collection tools covering your own extensive network interactions, this is probably too much. However, if you are analyzing web traffic and online communication, but failing to analyze support access post-sale, this is something you need to put right.
What is a successful business intelligence strategy? Which milestones are you aiming for tomorrow, next week, next year? Which metrics are you using to measure your progress towards these milestones?
Too often, the objectives we set ourselves are vague. We want to be data-driven. We want to increase spending on business intelligence. But we don’t have a yardstick by which to gauge our forward movement.
This is simple to remedy. At the beginning, when you implement any new strategy, simply sit down around a good old fashioned table – or a digital conference call, if you are feeling particularly modern – and flesh out the details. Define precisely the parameters in which you want to see improvement, and set your business a timescale in which to hit your designated goals. Be as flexible as you need to be, but make sure you are making demonstrable progress.
You don’t need me to tell you the advantages that a solid business intelligence initiative can bring. You have probably made serious ground already with your own strategies, and given yourself a great advantage over some of your competitors.
But challenges and difficulties are never far away. They tend to rear their heads once again at the sound of one simple question: “what’s next?”
The key here is to avoid complacency. Recognize that a wholesale adoption of a data and insight-driven culture in your organization is an ongoing one; it never truly ends. Continue to appraise, re-appraise, test, examine and reformulate your strategies going forward. Remember that your business is constantly evolving and changing, and so, what worked two years ago, might not necessarily continue to work next year. Be on the lookout; acknowledge that there may be a better way – a more efficient way – to get the results you need. Continuous growth is the only way to proceed.
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